Culture changed: Fire name Klopas manager

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Culture changed: Fire name Klopas manager

On Aug. 16, the Fire played to a 1-1 draw with D.C. United, setting an MLS record for most ties in a season with 15. The Men in Red were spinning their wheels in last place.

And yet, the attitude of the team remained positive. Despite the frustrating draws, despite the rough losses, the Fire never quit on the season -- and two months later, they nearly snuck into the playoffs.

That positive attitude started with Frank Klopas, who was officially named manager of the Chicago Fire Thursday afternoon at Toyota Park.

"When Frank took over, there was an immediate culture shift in so many ways," said team owner Andrew Hauptman. "The biggest way had to do with the fact that his belief in the players was real and authentic. He genuinely looked at the team that we had and believed that the results should be better."

But the results weren't better, at least in the first two months. So maybe defender Dan Gargan was a little surprised to see such an upbeat bunch of players when he was dealt from Toronto to Chicago in late July.

Like the Fire, Toronto had a roster that saw quite a bit of turnover and was near the bottom of the MLS table. But whereas Gargan described the culture in Toronto as a "cesspool," in Chicago it was completely different.

"Really, happiness," said Gargan of his first impressions of the squad. "Guys were excited to train and to be around one another.

"It was a breath of fresh air. Guys genuinely enjoyed being here."

How could players genuinely enjoy playing on a last-place team? Trust from the coaching staff is a good start, Gargan added.

"I always believed in the players," said Klopas. "I think the one thing that I did when I came in was to make sure they understood that. Having defined roles right from the beginning, then you can hold guys more accountable to do certain things -- I think it's very important that they totally understand, 100 percent when they step on the field, what their roles and responsibilities are."

Those defined roles were something the team didn't have under de los Cobos. On a team full of newcomers, that was a significant issue, one that wasn't a quick fix. It took a few months for roles to be defined and a new culture to be in place, but once those wrinkles were ironed out, the Fire took off.

"He came in with a real positive attitude and he included everyone. That's the difference between him and Carlos," Patrick Nyarko told CSNChicago in October. "He included everyone in game planning and building players' confidence, especially guys that have not played that much. He built their confidence to make them part of the team."

Make no mistake, 2011 was a transitional year for the Fire. They transitioned from de los Cobos to Klopas. They brought in numerous new players, from Dominic Oduro to Pavel Pardo to Sebastian Grazzini. They transitioned from a frustrating team to one with hope.

But the final transition for the team was the easiest. All they had to do was remove the word "interim" from Klopas' title.

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

Fireworks Night started early for the White Sox on Saturday night.

The White Sox homered four times to support Jose Quintana in their 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 27,318 fans. Quintana, who set a career high in season wins last week, notched his 11th victory of the season.

"This year is special for me," Quintana said. "Now we have momentum. (We have to) try to keep (it) going to get more for my team. It’s really good. I’m trying to do my job."

Quintana was on point again right from the get-go. After allowing a double to the first batter of the game, the 27-year-old southpaw retired the next 11 batters.

Quintana pitched 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and two runs on five hits and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 2.77 on the year.

"He's pretty consistent," said manager Robin Ventura. "I think that's the biggest thing for him. Mentality wise and just focus, just his attitude and everything that goes with him is pretty consistent. You're never going to really tell what's going on with him on the game.

"He's had so many games that were close or tied or even behind that he never changes. I think that's what endears him to a lot of guys. He's consistent."

While Quintana has been consistent all year, the offense hasn't been. But on Saturday, the team gave their starter a healthy dose of run support.

"What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me," Quintana said. "It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored."

The Mariners opened up the scoring with a sac fly from Robinson Cano in the first. But the White Sox answered back right away.

Melky Cabrera drove in Tim Anderson, who tripled in the previous at-bat, with a sac fly. The next batter, Jose Abreu, crushed his 18th homer of the year to put the White Sox in front. Cabrera was the only White Sox who didn’t record a hit in the game.

The White Sox offense began to heat up in the fourth after a quiet second and third from both sides.

After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the next four White Sox got on. It cleared the path for Tyler Saladino’s RBI single, which put the Sox up 3-1. Saladino finished the night with one homer and three RBI.

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The White Sox added four more in the fifth inning.

The scoring started with an RBI triple from Justin Morneau — the team’s second three-bagger of the night.

Back-to-back homers from Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila made it 7-1. It was the fifth time the White Sox hit two consecutive homers this season.

"I think Q's probably the happiest guy of anybody. He was great," Ventura said. "Any time you swing the bat as well as we did tonight and you get some add ons with the homers, you like seeing that kind of offense and you like seeing balls over the fence.

"Guys had a good night of just being patient and being able to cash in."

The Mariners added a run in the sixth from an RBI single by Guillermo Heredia and a sac-fly Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Avila went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and walk in his first game since July 5.

Garcia, who had five extra base hits in June and July, had three on Friday night.

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

RFK Stadium hosted one of the stranger games of the Chicago Fire’s season on Saturday.

It also may end up being a killer blow to the Fire’s playoff hopes.

The Fire lost 6-2 to the host D.C. United, falling nine points out of the playoffs with nine matches remaining.

Patrick Mullins had a hat trick and former Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko played a role in three of D.C.’s goals. The six goals were the most the Fire have allowed this season.

Fire midfielder Khaly Thiam received a red card in the 34th minute in a match-changing moment. Thiam fouled Nyarko then argued with the ref and dropped the ball on Nyarko’s face while Nyarko was still on the ground.

Nyarko keyed the opening goal in the 25th minute with a backheel in the box to Marcelo, whose low cross was finished off by Mullins.

Michael de Leeuw answered for the Fire (5-12-8, 23 points) by tucking away a big rebound from goalkeeper Bill Hamid after Matt Polster hit a half-volley at Hamid. The relief was short-lived for the Fire because Thiam was sent off a few minutes later.

Nyarko set up Mullins for a goal in the 40th minute and then Luciano Acosta did the same for Mullins in first half added time to make it 3-1 D.C. (7-8-11, 32 points). Razvan Cocis got the Fire back within one on the final kick of the half with a long shot that took a big deflection, lofting the ball perfectly over Hamid and into the net.

However, Nyarko quickly restored D.C.’s two-goal lead out of halftime with a goal in the 51st minute. Mullins finished off his hat trick in the 76th minute and Nick DeLeon finished the scoring in the 89th.

David Accam, who was favoring and icing his left leg after Wednesday’s draw with LA, did not start the match. He subbed on at halftime. He and David Arshakyan, who made his Fire debut off the bench, will both leave for international duty and miss next weekend’s match against Philadelphia.